Climbing the Grand Colombier

A guest post by Roy Everitt

This is the first in a three-part series by Roy, telling the story of when he climbed the Grand Colombier, on a laden touring bike!

A Chance to Climb the Grand Colombier

A quick bit of background: most of my bigger trips are with my brother-in-law and a few friends. For this one, only one of the friends would be with me. He would be attending a geology conference in Lyon and taking advantage of the opportunity to do some cycling in the nearby(ish) Jura mountains. Who would like to join him?

Me, obviously. First, I had to get to Lyon from my home in Jersey.

My body clock seemed to switch to French time long before I reached France, with the sky distinctly gloomy through the ferry’s tinted windows as we approached St Malo long before sunset, and my phone showing 5.30 am local time when I awoke the next morning. Not the restful lie-in I hoped for before a longish first day’s ride to Rennes.

Breakfast

Still, I lingered over breakfast. With three coffees and more wheat-based food than was probably good for me, I was intent on taking as much fuel onboard as possible.

At least I would have plenty of daylight today and I could easily be in time for the first river bus crossing to Dinard at 9 am. I pocketed some pastries and two boiled eggs for later.

I still had time for a thirty-minute nap in my room before I checked out.

I had about 110km to ride today, or less if I got bored with following the Rance-Ille canal upstream and opted for what looked like an old Roman road, the D637 from about halfway. I reasoned that quiet, flat and steady would be a good introduction to the adventure before I hit the extreme heat further south in Lyon and then the Jura mountains further east.

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Ferry

In the end, I caught the 9.40 ferry (they run every twenty minutes), along with a group of cyclists riding identical bikes and e-bikes labelled ‘Backroads’, which must be a local hire/tour company. The only downside of this very convenient ferry service is the steep steps you have to negotiate after docking at Dinard Yacht Club’s jetty. But everyone managed okay.

Finding the cycle path south from Dinard defeated me again, as it had on my previous visit, but I did pick up the signs just a few kilometres down the road, and soon I was heading confidently towards Dinan Port, mostly on compact gravel, crossing the occasional minor road. Average speed won’t have been high, but I had all day.

Onto proper roads for a few kilometres (turn left when the cycle path ends), I was soon descending into Dinan Port, where I crossed the water and joined the ‘Chemin de Halage’ (towpath) that I could follow all the way to Rennes.

Dinan Port

Picturesque Dinan Port always looks like a tempting place to stop, but it was too early for a second breakfast and I just needed somewhere to stop and sit, so I continued for a little longer until I reached the écluse (lock) at Léhon, at around 30 km or so. The first boiled egg went down well at this point as I watched one of the river cruise boats negotiate the lock.

Along much of the canal you have a choice of sides. Although one side is sometimes a little smoother and easier than the other, the surface is mainly pretty good, even on a loaded tourer with 35mm tyres. A gravel bike would be ideal. Of course, the opposite side always looked better…

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After another 30km it was time for lunch, to check my progress and to give the bike a little TLC, as the chain was starting to sound dry and gritty. That’s not surprising after nearly sixty kilometres’ riding on dry gravel. I was using a wax-based chain lube for the first time and I wasn’t entirely convinced about it, but it was all I had with me. I wiped off as much of the gunk as I could and applied a bit more lube. I gave it a few minutes to dry, as per instructions, while I had a little to eat and drink, took a couple of uninspiring photos and sent a couple of messages home.

In the event, that wax-based lube did a good job for the rest of the trip, with just a few top-ups needed.

I was going well and didn’t see the point of joining the road at halfway, so I carried on past St Domineuc and Tinténiac, staying with the canal.

Canal

Crossing the canal a few times, negotiating a bit of off-road and some rough asphalt, I reached the outskirts of Rennes at about 4pm. All I had to do now was find my hotel. It was very near the station, which should be signposted and easy to find. Advice from a friendly local, and Google Maps, got me there after a short delay. The traditional hotel was indeed very close to the station, but was quiet and comfortable, with a friendly receptionist and a secure place for my bike. I was in Brittany, so I found myself a creperie opposite the station and had a galette as well as a crépe for my evening meal. Plus a local beer.

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I had covered about 109km in the day: a few km in St Malo and then almost 106 from Dinard. I might clean my bike tomorrow.

Part 2 is here.

1 thought on “Climbing the Grand Colombier”

  1. Although most of France was enduring a major heatwave in July, my first day was cloudy and very comfortable, with temperatures in the low twenties for most of the day, and just a little warmer in Rennes. Winds were light, too.

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